In the relatively young medium of the video game, the break-the-bricks game is one of the oldest genres out there. It’s also one of the most replicated, with slightly altered versions appearing on nearly every device that can play games. You’d think that after all this time, they’d have run out of ideas to modify the simple formula of breaking bricks with a paddle and ball. BreakQuest proves that they haven’t.
Unlike most Breakout-style games, the targets in BreakQuest aren’t simple bricks. Each level presents a variety of blocks of all shapes, sizes and colors with a wide variety of designs. Some levels have clever themes, such as a billiard table, bowling alley or classic arcade games like Space Invaders and Asteroids. Others use the bricks to design optical illusions or familiar scenes. Each level is a wholly unique experience and shows impeccable attention to detail.
In most similar games, when you break a brick, it simply explodes off the screen. In BreakQuest, however, the bricks do all sorts of crazy things, including hanging from threads that create unique and interesting hazards. Other interesting twists include bumpers and enemies that float around the play field.
BreakQuest includes a wide range of power ups, ranging from the standard (wider paddles or multiple balls) to the unusual (like ones that change the shape of the balls or paddles and "drunk ball" – which turns the ball green and makes it stutter all around the screen). There’s also a wide range of explosives available to collect and launch from the paddle – everything from automatic guns to heat seeking missiles are available to help you take out those bricks. But it’s important to remember that not all power ups are good for your game and it can be a little hard to tell between the good items and the bad ones apart when you’re in the thick of things.
But the feature that really makes BreakQuest stand out from the crowd is the "gravitor." By clicking the right mouse button, the gravity affecting the ball increases temporarily, curving it back down towards the paddle at the bottom of the screen. This might not seem like a great feature (after all, you usually want the ball to go towards the top of the screen) but it can totally change the way you play the game. Careful use of the gravitor lets you effectively aim your shot in mid-air, well after it has left the paddle. This is especially effective when trying to hit that last stubborn block sitting all alone in the middle of an empty field. Using the gravitor is difficult at first, but after some practice you’ll wonder how you ever played block-breaking games without it.
If there’s one bad thing about BreakQuest, it’s that it can be a little overwhelming to beginners. At times, the sheer volume of balls, broken bricks, items, and other things flying around the screen are enough to distract anyone without laser-like focus. Luckily, a wide range of customization options – on everything from ball speed to the shape or your paddle- lets you downgrade the difficulty or crank it way up to your tastes.
A totally bizzare story about destroying the mass media is another low point, but the short movie scenes at the beginning and end of the game are easy to ignore.
It takes something special to set a Breakout-style game apart from decades of similar competition. But BreakQuest does just that with clever level design, well-implemented physics and a new "gravitor" feature that will keep you happily breaking "bricks" for hours on end.